Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to visit Detroit, commend Republican progress on education reform

Tomorrow, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will be on the Michigan leg of his three-day “Education and the Economy” tour of the midwest. According to his published itinerary, he will be starting the day in Detroit.

…where he will join Gov. Rick Snyder, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, and Emergency Financial Manager Roy Roberts for an event at Charles H. Wright Academy of Arts and Science to highlight recent steps initiated by the state and city of Detroit to provide better support and turn around persistently low-performing schools across Michigan…

According to the coverage that I’ve heard on Michigan Radio, the event is being billed as a “town hall meeting.” Unfortunately, though, it appears to be a “town hall” in name only, as it’s not open to the public. At least that’s the sense I get from the NPR report, which states, “Two hundred people are expected to attend the invitation-only event.” How much do you want to bet that none of the young mothers who were dragged by police from the recently closed Catherine Ferguson Academy were among those invited?

I’d love it if this were a real town hall meeting, and people from around the City were encouraged to come and share their thoughts on the closing of their neighborhood schools, and the fact that high school class sizes have, as of this new school year, swelled to 60. But that’s not what this event will be about. This event will be about politicians congratulating themselves on making the “hard decisions” necessary to keep public education alive. Snyder will talk about all of the money saved by our well-paid, and unelected Emergency Financial Managers, who have been given free reign to break union contracts and impose their brand of business discipline on our school districts. And maybe folks will even talk enthusiastically about the next step in this crusade to “save” public education, as outlined by State Senator Phil Pavlov – the privatization of teachers.

I’d like to think that the Secretary of Education would come in asking hard questions, and challenging the longterm effectiveness of these initiatives, but, given what I just read in the Free Press, I don’t think that’s going to happen. Here’s the relevant clip.

…”I’m more optimistic today about Detroit’s future than probably any time in the past two and a half years,” Duncan said during a phone interview with the Free Press. “I’m very encouraged by the leadership and the courage that’s being shown.”…

Since when is it courageous to stuff 60 poor kids in a classroom with an ill-equipped, under-payed and overwhelmed teacher? When I think of courage, I think of the young mothers at the Catherine Ferguson Academy, willing to be arrested rather than just stand by passively as their beloved school is closed… Someone should read the definition of courage to Duncan.

I can’t be there tomorrow, but I hope to God that people show up in large numbers and attempt to force their way in and bring a hint of reality to the proceedings. I’d love to see Duncan, Snyder and company asked by the parent of a child in the Detroit Public School system about the recent decision to push high school class sizes to 60. I’d love to hear them make the case that warehousing kids in this way will lead to anything but more young people either on unemployment or in jail. And I’d love to hear them explain the decision to close the Catherine Ferguson Academy – the one school that really was showing some success in breaking the multi-generational chain of poverty by working intensely with young mothers, and getting them into college.

As Duncan’s tour is supposed to be all about the connection between education and economic well-being, I think a discussion about the Catherine Ferguson Academy would be incredibly relevant. But, it won’t happen. No one will raise the point that money spent on inner city education now is money saved on prisons in the future. Because, the truth is, no one cares. Voters like building prisons almost as much as they hate the idea of their tax dollars going to educate the children of those they perceive as irresponsible welfare queens. And that’s why we’re doomed.

The Charles H. Wright Academy of Arts and Science, for those who would like to show up tomorrow morning, is at 19299 Berg Road, in Detroit.

[note: According to reader Teacher Patti, who teaches in the Detroit Public School System, as of this year, class sizes are as follows: 40 (k-3), 45 (4-5), 50 (6-8), 60 (9-12).]

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  1. Kerri
    Posted September 7, 2011 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

    Did anyone see the Dan Rather special on Detroit on HDNet? I watched part I recently and when I can stomach it, I will man up for part II. Absolutely heartbreaking. My family has strong Detroit roots – my parents and for the most part, my grandparents, were born and raised in the city, and my great-grandparents spent their adult lives there. I root for the city and when I go there, I always leave with a plan to come “home,” but this is so demoralizing. 60 kids in a class?! I did my student teaching (never actually taught professionally) with 1/3 of that, which was scary to me, but probably the ideal number. 6o is unimaginable. You would spent all of your time doing “classroom management” (disciplining kids) and not teaching. Disgusting. What happened to Brown v. Board of Education?

  2. Kerri
    Posted September 7, 2011 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    Argh, stupid commas.

  3. Demetrius
    Posted September 8, 2011 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    During Monday’s Labor Day speech in Detroit, President Obama promised to stand up for unions, stating: “”As long as I’m in the White House, I’m going to stand up for collective bargaining.”

    Merely four days later, he’s sending his Education Secretary to Detroit to join union-busting Rick Snyder, and unelected, unaccountable enforcer of “financial martial law” Roy Roberts in event that seems designed to lend White House support for their efforts to destroy public education (and teachers’ unions) in Michigan.

    Just sayin’ …

  4. Edward
    Posted September 8, 2011 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    You said it, Demetrius.

    Come to think of it I don’t know that I’ve ever heard Obama say a word in favor of public schools.

    Oh, and did you happen to catch Newt last night, during the debate, saying how he and Obama were in agreement on charter schools? Fucking pathetic.

  5. TeacherPatti
    Posted September 8, 2011 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    To be fair, our rooms are pretty low in numbers right now because a lot of kids don’t make it in the first week or two of school. But if we don’t ultimately have the “right” number of kids, we will have one teacher per grade level, which will be a disaster.

    As it is, half of my caseload is in a math class with a woman who told me flat out that she will not accommodate them nor will she teach “to” them. So my plan is to drag her fat ass up to Wayne RESA, and then federal court (not lyin’–I have a law license) if need be. I am not playin’ this year. (not that I ever play when it comes to my kiddos). And it’s just gonna get worse for special ed kids as class sizes increase and teachers get crabbier. I wish I could be at that “town hall meeting” but I’d likely get my ass dragged away and off to jail.

    I think Mark hit the nail on the head with this statement:
    …almost as much as they hate the idea of their tax dollars going to educate the children of those they perceive as irresponsible welfare queens. And that’s why we’re doomed.

  6. Mr. X
    Posted September 8, 2011 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    I was watching TV at the gym this morning, and the local news was reporting on the number of school bus drivers that didn’t know their routes. They noted a few instances where drivers were asking the kids on the bus for directions.

    Bus drivers, as you’ll recall, were recently privatized in order save money.

  7. TeacherPatti
    Posted September 8, 2011 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    Yup. One cab didn’t get here until 5:30 the other night and the kids were stuck here. (Yes, they do cab kids when they don’t fit on bus routes). There are always transportation problems for the first few weeks of school…if a kid moves, we won’t see them for weeks. Then they sometimes randomly change routes mid-year with no notice to the parents or teachers. It’s some happy funtimes, let me tell you.

  8. anonymous
    Posted September 8, 2011 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    Duncan is speaking at the University of Michigan in a few minutes. It’s going to be streamed at:

  9. Mr. X
    Posted September 8, 2011 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    No word of any protest in Detroit. The following comes from the Detroit News.

    U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said Thursday he thinks Detroit can be the fastest improving school district in the United States because of the leadership in place and the massive education reform under way across the city and state.

    “Two years later, I couldn’t be more hopeful and optimistic about Detroit and where it’s going to go,” Duncan said, referring to his visit to Detroit in 2009 when he declared the city ground zero for education reform.

    Duncan, sitting with Gov. Rick Snyder, Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Roy Roberts, Mayor Dave Bing and other leaders, thanked all three men for “stepping up” to reform education in Detroit and the state.

    “You have a leadership team in place … to do something remarkable here,” Duncan said.

    From The Detroit News:

  10. josh s
    Posted September 8, 2011 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    How am I supposed to vote for this guy? For a while now I’ve thought, “well, if he manages to get X done, maybe I can overlook everything else.” It’s always been dicey, I am not a big fan of the Dems, but can occasionally hold my nose and pull the lever for them. But I can’t vote for the lesser of two evils, when I’m not sure which that is. If it was a republican pulling this shit at least we would have a decent opposition.

    I was at the Labor Day parade in Detroit on Monday and it was the saddest thing I have ever seen. Labor carrying signs and applauding someone who is actively fucking them over. No chants or other signs of militancy, just a brisk walk to the finish line to see Obama speak. Obama’s speech should have been cut short by an old school labor riot. Instead, NEA already endorsed his reelection bid in July and AFT is sure to follow. WTF?

  11. Kim
    Posted September 8, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    I watched the U-M broadcast with Duncan and the whole thing was positive. No one asked about the dismantling of the public education system in America. No one asked about the threat of privatization. The discussion was all about training, attracting and retaining teachers, education methodology, and the like. Multiple people on the panel said they were more optimistic about education in America than they have been in the recent past. Maybe that’s legitimate, given that No Child Left Behind might be fading, but it seemed too optimistic given what I see taking place here in SE Michigan.

  12. dirtgrain
    Posted September 8, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    Who is the Green Party candidate? Any other independents? I’m looking for some options.

  13. Natalie Holbrook
    Posted September 8, 2011 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    “Because, the truth is, no one cares. Voters like building prisons almost as much as they hate the idea of their tax dollars going to educate the children of those they perceive as irresponsible welfare queens. And that’s why we’re doomed. ” so true and sick. check out the video with the link below. how terribly sad it is that people of a struggling community get excited about the prospect of more jobs being created by filling up a prison. this is so sorrowful and indicative of the misery created by joblessness and serious assaults on public education across this country. we are caught in a cycle…

  14. Heidi
    Posted September 9, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Oh..just brace yourselves everyone. With the elimination of the personal property tax, schools, libraries, city workers, and more are just going to get hit with another wave of cuts. Up to 30%…. Which gives Snyder even more reason to send in his EFMs.. (sorry… consipiracy theory?, possibly, but looks like this might be a reality!)

    Please read the library fact sheet, it’s a word document. My library alone, if this passes and the way things are going probably will, will face a 500,000 dollar budget cut. Can’t even imagine what the schools will be facing!

  15. Mike Shecket
    Posted September 9, 2011 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    TeacherPatti, wouldn’t it be nice, instead of taking her to RESA, then federal court, to be able to have the principal fire her? NOW?

  16. Alice Temple
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    It’s a good thing no one broke up the circle jerk to bring up anything important, like the movement that’s afoot to privatize Michigan’s schools. We might have actually learned something.

  17. Meta
    Posted December 20, 2011 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    Four Detroit libraries will be closing this week.

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